Stone sculptor

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Self-portrait of Adam Kraft , an important German stone sculptor of the late Gothic period, at the Sacrament House in St. Lorenz in Nuremberg

Stone sculptors ( lat .: Statuarius or Sculptor ) produce sculptural natural stone works . In contrast to the stonemason , her work is more creative and less geometric, so no profile work or structural work, such as stairs or kitchen worktops. Like other sculptors , they mostly have artistic or craft skills. The stone sculptor can work creatively as well as implement given sculptures in stone.

The stone sculptor is a craft training occupation , the first two years of apprenticeship are identical to the stone mason .

Historical development of stone carving

Ancient Egypt

Egyptian granite statue of Thutmose III.
Athena Parthenos, Roman copy 1st century Palazzo Altieri , Rome; signed "Antiochus from Athens"


It is noticeable that even in one of the oldest cultures with a sculptural tradition, the Egyptian , even the hardest rocks such as granite , basalt , diorite , gabbro or porphyry appear. The choice of these materials is undoubtedly related to the eternity claim of corresponding works as representatives of important deceased. The workflow for the Egyptian statues can be traced back to a painting in the tomb of the vizier Rechmire (around 1450 BC). The block extracted from the quarry was roughly cut to size. The outlines of the figure were drawn on all four sides of the block and the protruding stone material removed. The stone sculptors therefore worked off the stone layer by layer and always had the entire sculpture in view.

For rough work on soft and hard stone, stone hammers made of dolerite with and without handles were used. These tools were used by the Egyptians in particular when making sculptures from hard stone . For the shaping of the finer work in soft stone, knots and chisels made of bronze up to around 1500 BC were used. And iron chisels used in Roman times. The surface was smoothed with polishing stones ( pumice ) and emery material such as quartz sand. Incidentally, the bronze chisels were so valuable that they had to be handed in in the evening and incurred heavy fines if they were lost. The sculptures were worked out freely; a back pillar was preserved in stone. A block-like figure emerged. The depictions of people were not personalized and the stone sculptors limited themselves to depicting traits.


The Egyptians used fixed rules of proportion when creating flat reliefs , as they did with statues for the design of the human body. The human body used to be divided into 18 and later into 21 squares in reliefs. The body was divided in height into three parts, the lower third without height division, the middle third into two equal parts and the upper third into 2 parts for the head, 1½ parts from the neck to the armpits and 2½ Parts of the armpit to the middle of the abdomen were divided.

Ancient Greece


In Greek sculpture, marble is the predominant material alongside bronze . The sculptures of the Acropolis are made of Pentelic marble , recognizable by its milky white color. A warmer tinted variety comes from Paros .

According to Carl Blümel (1893–1976), sculptor and director of the Pergamon Museum , early Greek stone carving initially worked like the Egyptian stone sculptors. The shape of the figure was drawn or scratched. The sculptures could be worked on from all sides. The Greeks worked layer by layer every time. So you never worked on a leg, arm or head by yourself, but always had the big picture in mind, and the figure was holistic at every stage of the work.

They used in their work by forging shaped bronze and later " iron " (made of hardened steel ) pointed chisel , therefore, had the sculptures countless dot-shaped holes possibly also by two tip or pointed Hammers created and edited in the course of the work process with ever finer chisels and finer cuts were. This technique was only used by the Greeks because they preferred a different surface than any other stone sculptor after them. A final step was carried out with the toothed iron, which is a series of "small pointed irons" in a metal cutting edge. This tool was used by the sculptors to level out the unevenness caused by the pointed iron. Basically, when the marble is pointed, the mineral grains are shattered. The stone surface is lightened. Today's stone sculptors avoid this. The Greeks deliberately created a velvety, rough stone surface. Possibly the surface was made rough because the sculptures of the Greeks were painted in color and the paint adhered better to the rough surface. If certain parts were to be smoothed that had radial shapes, the Greeks partially used chisels or round irons, which did not have a straight, but a round edge, and from the middle of the 5th century BC. u. There are currently traces of stone drills. Metal rasps were mainly used in places where paint was to be applied later. In later times, marble was used by stone sculptors and also by Greek stone sculptors 350 BC. Chr. Always smoothed and mostly brought to the polish . This can be demonstrated by the traces of the Parthenon .

A change in stone processing took place in the 1st century BC. In Greek sculpture when a stone sculptor demonstrably transferred the model into the stone with the help of a measuring method. The stone was no longer chiseled out around the stone, but first the front was knocked out. The sculptor checked the respective depths of the model and sculpture using pitches. It was a simple puncturing technique that was not further developed into circular puncturing until much later. The sculptor attached cords to the plaster model and transferred the measurements by punching holes in the sculpture. The sculptors also used vertical plumb bobs, which were attached to a wooden frame above the sculptures and provided pitches. The subsequent surface was then produced from the completed depth points. Not only pointed chisels were used, but chisels, which did not bruise the stone surface as badly.


The Greek sculptors drew the outline shapes on the marble slab and deepened the shapes and only then the details of the figures. The highest points of the relief are all on one level. With today's reliefs it is the other way around, the deepest points are on one level. The main difference to Greek sculpture is that the chisel and round iron are used more often than the point iron. For the relief work mainly toothed, striking and round irons were used. If several levels of relief were created in a work of art, the sculptors first worked out the lower levels and shapes and then worked on the higher levels.

Ancient Rome

The Laocoon group in the Vatican Museum
A look into a stone carving workshop in Carrara
Electronically controlled copy router (outlines of a reclining woman)
A typical stone carving activity is copying with a puncturing device as a manual work

The Romans essentially adopted the sculpting technique used by the Greeks. Like their modern Italian descendants, they mainly used the dazzling white marble from the Carrara marble quarries . The closer they got to the surface of the sculptures, they worked with the pointed chisel at a shallow angle and finally used a chisel. This made the hammer the main tool. In terms of work technique, the speed in the production of the sculptures was decisive for the Roman sculptors, and they worked out the sculptures in individual areas and connected them. They used a plumb line to do this, and that made it possible to work out the required points precisely. Then the grinding and polishing work began. During this time around 100 BC The Laocoon group , based on a bronze sculpture , was probably created. The Romans were the perfect copyists and brought stone portraits of their emperors and other sculptures as a demonstration of their power to the conquered lands, so as many copies as possible of imperial portraits were made, which can be admired in museums today.

middle Ages

Fine-grained, yellowish-gray limestone was often available in France for building sculpture in the Middle Ages, while in German regions it was more sandstone with its regional varieties. From the 13th and 14th centuries, the figures were again worked out freely and round from the block, but almost always a connection to a back wall or a housing remains.

Modern times

It was only in the Renaissance that multiple views became an artistic ideal. A technical innovation is the resumption of forgotten transfer methods, such as the use of the solder frame.
In the baroque period , bozetti , plastic models made of wood or clay, were used as sketches. They serve as a draft for a figure or a large plastic statue, taking into account the client's ideas. In the baroque era, puncturing devices are in use and in classicism , the model according to which it was made plays the decisive role. In classicism, workshops emerged that produced small series of sculptures based on existing models.

20th century

At the beginning of the 20th century, relief-like and free work was again practiced. Adolf von Hildebrand's writing on the problem of form in the visual arts played a role in the fact that the sculptures were carved out of the natural stone freely and round ( direct carving ). With regard to the transmission method, different doctrines and applications opposed one another. Partly it was punctured and worked freely. For large sculptures, measuring frames were often created from which measurements could be made.

Today's stone carving

The stone sculptor is able to realize a three-dimensional work exactly according to (own or external) specifications. The stone sculptor forms his sculptures from the outside to the inside by hacking the sculpture out of a stone block, i.e. contrary to the modeller when building a clay model.


In Germany stone sculptors also call themselves stone masons who qualify in a profession with two fields. There are apprenticeship training regulations for stonemasons and stone sculptors, which include both the stonemason and stone sculptor profession. Furthermore, there is the “master in the stonemasonry and stone carving trade” as a fully manual profession, to a certain extent a type of profession with two professions. In master's examinations, in addition to a masterpiece, a stonemason has to make a stone carving as a work sample and a stone sculptor has to do a stone carving. Since the stone carving assignments are small, the masters and journeymen of this subject can very rarely live on stone carving work alone.

The apprenticeship profile for stonemasons and stone sculptors apprentices includes:

  • Develop drafts and implement them in models
  • Design, implement and cast relief and plastic jewelry forms
  • Create and process negative forms, multi-part forms, models
  • Transfer models in stone, especially by dotting
  • Create and execute plastic bodies
  • Design and execute ornamental forms of jewelry
  • Prepare, carry out and document restoration measures on stone carving objects
  • Making casts
  • Document work steps

Working method

Technical-reproductive aspects

Plaster model by Johannes Benk with the markings of the puncturing device

Stone sculptors use a model to create sculptures on a 1: 1 scale using puncturing devices. You can also enlarge or reduce models with a proportional angle or use the so-called  three-circle method . A special method that not every stone sculptor can master is the mirror-inverted dotting of models with the three-circle method. The technical-reproductive method of sculpture is mainly used in restoration tasks to make copies of valuable sculptures, also for purely commercial purposes. For example, Michelangelo's David is produced in original size approximately every three years as a commissioned work for global export. It is almost always made in the Carrara region , based on one of the 1: 1 plaster models that exist there.

When creating reliefs, grids are used, both for 1: 1 models and for enlargements or reductions. Grids were not only used by the Egyptians, but also by Albrecht Dürer in the reproduction of drawings and paintings.

Creative aspects

In addition to the technical and reproductive aspects, a number of stone sculptors also have the ability to carry out their own free artistic work in natural stone. Some of the creative stone sculptors create handicraft or free artistic work. Partly stone sculptors are also active in the design of tombs, especially in urban areas.

Preparatory work with computer-controlled copy milling cutters

Today electronically controlled copy milling cutters are used to cut out the outlines of a sculpture . This eliminates the physically difficult and time-consuming work with hammer and chisel . The production of the surface shape and skin of the sculpture is then done with the stone carving iron .

Famous stone sculptors in history

Important historical stone sculptors in German-speaking countries

Famous historical European stone sculptors

Modern sculptors who mainly worked in natural stone

Other personalities with skilled stone carving training

  • Günter Grass , writer, painter and sculptor trained as a stonemason and stone sculptor (1947–1949) in Düsseldorf.
  • Emil Cimiotti (emer. Professor at the HBK Braunschweig), apprenticeship as stonemason and stone sculptor (1946–1949).

other topics

  • An exhibition space for stone art is called the Lapidarium .

Web links


  • Carl Blümel : Greek sculptors at work , 2nd edition, Berlin 1941.
  • Adolf von Hildebrand : Problem of the form in the fine arts , Strasbourg 1893.
  • Rosemarie Klemm , Dietrich Klemm : The stones of the pharaohs , ed. vd State Collection of Egyptian Art, Munich 1981.
  • Bettina Schmitz: The stones of the pharaohs, from quarry to work of art. Deposits. Materials. Workpieces from Ancient Egypt , in: Information and introductions for museum visitors, ed. v. Pelizaeus Museum Hildesheim, Hildesheim 1985

Individual evidence

  1. Bettina Schmitz, Stones of the Pharaohs, page 21, see Lit.
  2. Rosemarie and Dietrich Klemm, Pharaonen, page 36, see Ref.
  3. Carl Blümel, Greek Sculptors, page 16, see Ref.
  4. Carl Blümel, Greek Pharaohs, page 48, see Ref.
  5. Carl Blümel, Greek sculptors, page 72 ff, see lit.